White River Community Association celebrates renovation of Buford Schoolhouse
and highlights its history, including the 1953 dedication in memory of Alphonzo Bell. That dedication was attended by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Members of the White River Community Association had an open house Oct. 4 at the one-room Buford Schoolhouse. Actually, it was more of a celebration.
In fact, the flier promoting the event called it a “down-home upriver good time.”
Club members have had plenty to celebrate, including the renovation of the historic schoolhouse, located on County Road 17, about 22 miles southeast of Meeker, along the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway. The schoolhouse is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties as well as the Rio Blanco County Historical Register.
At the Oct. 4 event, club members reminisced about past celebrations, including the 1953 dedication ceremony attended by Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady and wife of the late President Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1953, Minnewa Bell Roosevelt, who was married to Elliott Roosevelt, son of Franklin and Eleanor, donated the schoolhouse to the White River Community Club as a local gathering place and community center. It has been used for that purpose ever since.
“Getting the old building back in shape, it means a lot,” Arlene Fritzlan said. “I appreciate everybody’s hard work.”
Fritzlan remembers being introduced to Eleanor Roosevelt at the dedication. She was impressed with the former first lady.
“What really struck me was how, after just meeting me that day, she called me by name,” Fritzlan said. “That meant a lot to me. She called everybody by name. This was in the schoolhouse, and it was jam packed.”
Elliott Roosevelt served as master of ceremonies at the dedication. Elliott Roosevelt and Minnewa Bell were married in 1951. Two years later, she donated the schoolhouse to the White River Community, in memory of her father, Alphonzo Bell.
Fritzlan (her last name was Gulliford back then) attended school for two years at the Buford Schoolhouse.
“That was 1936 and ‘37,” she said. “Then we moved to town. Oh, now I’m telling my age.”
Frank Cooley also remembers seeing Eleanor Roosevelt at the dedication ceremony in ‘53.
“I was here with my wife and we saw Eleanor,” Cooley said. “The one vivid impression I have is we saw her walking by herself on the South Fork Road for exercise, and both my wife and I were surprised at how tall she was. We waved, and she waved back.”